Monday, January 9, 2012

Dolphin increasingly on the menu in poor countries

Dolphin for dinner? It's more common than you might think. Though eating sea mammals is frowned upon in much of the world, the consumption of animals such as whales, dolphins and manatees is on the rise in poor nations. Declines in coastal fish catches have led people to look for other sources of meat.

"This is essentially a bushmeat problem," says Martin Robards of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Alaska. Robards worked with Randall Reeves of the Okapi Wildlife Associates in Quebec, Canada, to compile the first comprehensive report of the types and numbers of marine mammals consumed each year. Their review of some 900 sources found that large-scale whaling has decreased in the last four decades, but that doesn't mean marine mammals are out of danger.

Smaller cetaceans are making their way to dinner plates as other protein sources are dwindling in coastal areas of west Africa, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines and Burma. From 1970 to 2009, at least 92 species of cetaceans were eaten by humans (Biological Conservation, DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2011.07.034).

"Traditionally, you think of Japan or natives in the Arctic as big consumers, and they are," says Robards, "but that's not the whole story." The rise in consumption can also be attributed to more unintentional kills as fishing nets improve and by-catch animals fail to escape. Read More